02009-07-07 | Uncategorized | 21 comments

I took that bit of video sometime last week. Why put art on the walls, when I can watch the shadows dance…

I am getting ready for today’s rehearsal.

Yesterday I read this:

Chase Jarvis Blog: Priced To Sell: Gladwell vs. Anderson Considering Photography

“…And there’s plenty of other information out there that has chosen to run in the opposite direction from Free. The Times gives away its content on its Web site. But the Wall Street Journal has found that more than a million subscribers are quite happy to pay for the privilege of reading online. Broadcast television—the original practitioner of Free—is struggling. But premium cable, with its stiff monthly charges for specialty content, is doing just fine. Apple may soon make more money selling iPhone downloads (ideas) than it does from the iPhone itself (stuff). The company could one day give away the iPhone to boost downloads; it could give away the downloads to boost iPhone sales; or it could continue to do what it does now, and charge for both. Who knows? The only iron law here is the one too obvious to write a book about, which is that the digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws.”

Counter to some predictions, photography and video are are not bound to ‘Free’. I’m in agreement with Anderson that ‘Free’ is most certainly carving out its space–even reasonably so–in every digitally based industry, but I’m in complete alignment with Gladwell that the two markets ‘Free’ and ‘Not Free’ can and will continue to co-exist reasonably nicely. The trick is/will be in finding the balance.

Read the whole piece here. A lot of very good food for thought.

Somewhat related is this entry at Slashdot:

Slashdot Technology Story | If You Live By Free, You Will Die By Free
“Internet entrepreneur Mark Cuban writes that the problem with companies who have built their business around free is that the more success you have in delivering free, the more expensive it is to stay at the top. ‘”They will be Facebook to your Myspace, or Myspace to your Friendster or Google to your Yahoo,” writes Cuban. “Someone out there with a better idea will raise a bunch of money, give it away for free, build scale and charge less to reach the audience.”‘ Cuban says that even Google, who lives and dies by free, knows that ‘at some point your Black Swan competitor will appear and they will kick your ass’ and that is exactly why Google invests in everything and anything they possibly can that they believe can create another business they can depend on in the future searching for the “next big Google thing.”

Anything generic is moving towards free. Anything truly original is moving towards value.

Latin or Blues electric guitar moves towards free. Santana moves towards value. A photograph of the Pantheon can be found for free on the internet, an original and completely different photograph of the Pantheon cannot.

For an artist the lesson might be this:
If you want to fit into a certain category of music or want to fit into a specific radio format, you will have to fight free – because similar content WILL be available for free!

If, on the other hand, you are developing something truly original, a different sound, a new expression, then it might take you longer to find recognition, but you will develop value.

If, what you are creating is too far out… maybe you just have to wait a few months (((or sometimes years))) to let the world catch up. Suddenly you might find that your strange new sound fits in quite nicely.

In other words, I get the sense that the current economy and internet-culture should push a young artist towards more original and away from trying to fit in. And that would be a good thing.

Please discuss.


  1. Victor

    Just a thought to be original or have an original sound means taking a risk when you share it, and for many that may very well be the hard part. To be a trail blazer or do something new requires that you believe in yourself and dont necessarily need other to approve.. I think when you follow someone else act you are somewhat protected in that that act is already been approved so there is no real great risk to follow you are just copying something that you have seen work. Its in the risk of doing something new that new beauty is created. Just my opinion

  2. James

    With mass reproduction of almost any medium that is available today, value can dissipate very quickly. What was original yesterday has in many cases become devalued by means of mass production and distribution. It seems that digital reproduction has accelerated the phenomenon. Having realized this, a young artist may be pushed toward more original and less reproducible. But do artists really act according to such economic forces?

  3. Brenda

    First thought – TANSTAAFL

  4. Ottmar

    James: I think artists do. Before the sixties most singers were given songs to sing. It was the job of the record company’s A&R person (((artist & repertoire))) to find song or commission the song writers to write songs for the artists. After Bob Dylan and the Beatles had great success with their own works, the A&R profession changed completely. Suddenly A&R was about finding artists and maybe putting them together with an established producer – not about handing them the material to sing/perform.

    During the past decade pop culture seems to have turned a little more towards performers who can sing and dance, but do not write songs. One of these days the next Nirvana will change that again.

    I am hoping that people who experience my solo-concerts find new emotion in the unique combination of guitar music with imagery. It makes the concert unique. Stephen Duros said after one of my recent performances in San Francisco that it felt like a concert combined with an art-installation (((please correct me if I didn’t quote you correctly Stevo!))).

    Brenda: I understand what you are saying (((for those who don’t know the term: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch))) – but sometimes it is not apparent who pays the price for the free lunch. Sometimes it is our culture that takes a hit and makes some people very very rich.

  5. Stephen Duros

    That is correct!

    Hey, what do you know the internet is working again!

  6. Brenda

    Ottmar: You are absolutely correct because we sadly take others for granted. Our eyes very often never know who did without so others feast at table of rich waste. I am not artist or musician but I am thankful to be blessed with friends and family that surrounded me with love from childhood to adulthood. This circle cultivated the acceptance of my original self and to love and most importantly to accept the surprise of another human being’s creativity. To Enjoy the orginality! Copies become boring and predictable and orginals – Well – You just wonder – What if??

  7. Gerry

    “Anything generic is moving towards free. Anything truly original is moving towards value. ”
    I hope this how the future is shaping up. Just last week, an artist friend of mine showed me something he is currently working on/with. It was a special moment for me as I witnessed somthing that was quite different/original and moments like these are rare. It would be tragic if his ideas were copied and mass produced.

  8. Victor Hornback

    For an artist to give consideration to the current economics of art is certainly practical (everyone has to make a living), but it raises this question: Where does art (particularly original art) come from?

    You know what the difference is between Jazz and Blues? In Blues you play three chords in front of thousands of people. In Jazz you play thousands of chords in front of three people.

    So, what if your real passion is playing Jazz (even if only for three people)? Sure, in reality Jazz covers a huge spectrum and is popular… What I’m really getting at is that if an artist loves one thing, and that one thing is generally considered to have already been DONE, then I don’t know that the artist can just switch to being more inventive.

    Maybe another way of saying it is that the “push towards more original” is really that the current situation will reward more art that is farther off-center. But there’s something about presenting that as a lesson to aspiring artists still rubbing me the wrong way… I guess because I doubt if off-centered-ness can be taught.

  9. Ottmar

    Victor: I don’t think an artist necessarily purposely reacts to a current economic situation by adjusting the slider on his/her originality scale. Artists are pretty emotional/intuitive people and might react with originality when everything else seems uniform or might not want to push boundaries when everything else is wild and innovative.

    Jazz may not be the best example. Jazz seems to have been rather stagnant in the past decades. Wynton Marsalis prefers the Jazz of the fifties and early sixties, and being the director of Lincoln Center has made his opinion very influential.

    Somehow one must find a creative balance. There will always be those musicians who prefer the traditional music. If you belong to a tradition you receive clear milestones for what you must be able to do. Then there are the people who prefer to find their own way to go. It’s probably part of one’s character, a combo or genetic disposition and social interaction/learning.

    Maybe you are right and off-centered-ness or originality cannot be taught. I would bet you are wrong though. When education is very good, and art and music is taught in schools, more originality seems to be unleashed.

  10. Brenda

    So orginal is day then money is night? Big Difference. For example, I could have the best 5 Star Lemonade stand operating on a shoe string but if Mr. Quick Lemonade Stand has a location on every corner and gives Free Refills in a special 16 oz designed cup with all his Business Sponsors funding the advertisements. How do I compete? Just as a radio tower stands firmly on the land, someone owns the land that the tower is built and businesses pay dearly to advertise into our ears how wonderful they are with no regard to the music being played but the demographics of capturing the SALE of a Product such as Mr. Quick Lemonade. Educate the consumer!! Musicians are wonderful sales people to push for change at every LIVE performance.
    Educate the captive audience and plant the seed for change.

  11. ottmar

    Brenda: I am note sure what you mean by that. I said that originality can add to value and may mean more money, while doing the same thing somebody else is doing does not create value and moves towards free. To use your lemonade example, if you make your 5-star lemonade the same way your competitor makes his, then you are fighting a losing battle. Especially if s/he can produce larger quantities at lower cost.

    If, on the other hand, you use special local organic lemonade, or add another fruit to the mix… or hm, maybe you add rum and sugar and mint and call it a Mojito! Then you can compete. You make something that is uniquely different from Mr. Quick’s lemonade and that creates value.

    Until Mr. Quick finds a way to make Mojitos that are as good as yours for less…

    Maybe unique is a better term than original.

  12. Carol

    I’ve often wondered about those who created the early 20th century music who were willing to give it to some other musicians with no more than a “music by Jimmy McHugh” or “music by Harold Arlen” etc and I hope some payment.
    How much more real and meaningful it is to know the musician that performs it is the musician who felt it from the minute it was born.
    I’m happy that trend has changed, and what we hear is what was felt when it was created.

  13. Adam

    OL – I think in comment #9 you might be looking at the same thing in two different ways. I’d agree that the better a musician is educated, the more likely he is to find some sort of originality, but precisely because he (or she) (or thon ;) ) is being inculcated into a tradition.

    You draw a difference between musicians who “belong to a tradition” and those who “prefer to find their own way.” Which was Beethoven, then? Or on the flamenco front – which were Camarón and Paco de Lucía in the 70s, or Vicente Amigo and Gerardo Núñez today? Surely you wouldn’t say that none of these great innovators belong(ed) to a tradition. Tradition is never stagnant, never just “clear milestones” – at least, not a tradition worth a damn. It’s brought forward by innovators acting within it. Surely finding one’s own way doesn’t have to entail rewriting all the rules (and when it has, very often the results were disastrous).

  14. Brenda

    Ottmar: I was making a “quick” attempt to express in words that the VALUE of ORIGINALITY is always undervalued by money.
    Money is not an even exchange for orginality of a human being. I made an attempt to say, “If a person’s goals in life is just money, well, it devalues the gifts of orginality”. To be true to your orginality, our focus can not just be money.
    If money happens, then enjoy the side benefit. Yes, my focus of Mr. Quick Lemonade to Mr. 5 Star was out of Small Business versus Big Business. I was a small business owner (President) for eleven years so I “think” business. My focus was the customer not the money. Being orginal in business is copied and engulfed by Deep Pockets of Big Business.

  15. Brenda

    Yes, I like your Orginal Lemonade Recipe!!! Yes, you are a successful Business Owner for Sure! :) THANKS!!!

  16. Ottmar

    Adam: talking about originality versus tradition in music is somewhat like talking about the absolute and relative when discussing philosophy or religion. It’s for making a point only – in reality one cannot exist without the other. There is no absolute without the relative and there is no originality without tradition and vice versa. Consider the two positions as magnetic poles, both constantly present in the undercurrent of your creativity, in a complex mix formed by your genetic and social input – unless you are moving to the arctic or antarctic… :-)

    Maybe I should write more on the subject and dig a little deeper.

    Brenda: Thanks for that.

  17. Matt Callahan

    Let’s take it back to photography. I used to enjoy spending time running through Flickr’s Explore function, looking at what the numbers called interesting pictures. A few years ago, you could see some great examples of unique perspectives. Today, it seems that a great majority of Flickr users used the “interestingness” concept as a queue to copy what they saw others doing. While imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, it does little for your own growth as an artist in any field.

    I have no desire to do nothing more than look at photos in the style of (fill in the blank), read a book penned in the manner of (fill in the blank), or listen to music in the tradition of (fill in the blank). But I’m afraid that most people do. And the “money” that brings all of those items to the sale racks count on the fact that the consumer will do just what they’re told.

    So where do you go to find the original? And how do those original artists support themselves without huge corporations paying the bills and providing the direction to insure a return on the investment?

    Here’s where the internet becomes something other than a Jolly Roger flying vessel loaded full of pillagers and thieves. Small social groups that share creative connections. Something like Ottmar’s curator concept. People sharing their own feelings (not paid testimonials) about art, music, books. Any product of creativity that you enjoy. Without the internet, I would have never heard of a cellist named Matthew Schoening. He’s out there, trying to make his way by creating music he wants to. No record label, just an artist giving his craft all he can. Chances are, you’ll never hear even his name on the radio, let alone one of his songs. I want to be able to look forward to more music from him. The only way to do that is by spreading word of what he’s creating. Finding an audience for him. Get money in his hands so he can continue to create.

    I like to think that there are enough people out there that are more than just collectors of cd’s, books, or pictures on a wall. People who appreciate the efforts of others enough to make certain that their work is not taken from them without compensation. Perhaps these same people would be willing to put forth some effort to share news of what they find good. A give and take of opinions that supports artists, not robs them.

  18. Brenda

    OK – Matt- What law should be created to keep artist’s from being taken advantage of by big business? How would it be enforced? Let’s draft it and begin lobbying! :) Start with local musicians by having them show up during the legislative sessions. Face to face lobbying, letter writing to house of delegates, senators, and letters to newspaper (editorials). It works! My first attempt with creating a law was about four years ago and YES the law was drafted – then to house – then to senate to become a State Law. Worth a try! :)

  19. Adam

    Come now, must the answer to *every* problem be a law? :) The internet is making independence a more viable option than ever for artists who don’t want to go through the record companies, imperfect though it still is.

    Ottmar, re:your last comment, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the subject :)

  20. Brenda

    :) Laws are made by lawyers to make money for lawyers. I do agree with all of Matt’s comment but to make economic changes in the pocketbooks of musicians then there needs to be a method to penalize the big business deep pockets. I do believe our current administration is Pro Small Business! Finally! I made my comment to open a door to a solution to a problem. Yes, I know very – very little about the music industry but I know that it is a business. :) Just trying to help.

  21. Ottmar

    Adam, I think you would have argued that Wallstreet and the banks will police themselves, that there is no need for more oversight or new laws… at least until last Summer? :-)


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